Archive for December 2009
Orwellian moment of the year: “Cultural community leaders” (and members of the Mayor of Montréal Gérald Tremblay’s political party…) Marvin Rotrand, Robert Libman, Tony Sciascia, Kéder Hippolyte and Alan DeSousa call rival candidate Louise Harel a xenophobe because she expressed the wish Montrealers were not divided along ethnic and linguistic lines.
Second best idea by Montréal Mayor Gérald Tremblay (after those bixi bikes): « It is clear that Montreal’s cultural communities want more and more to get involved at the level of municipal politics, and our party Union Montréal understood that need. »
Municipal political party that had the fewest “cultural community” candidates in the 2009 election: Gérald Tremblay’s Union Montréal
Best argument in a Montreal Gazette editorial in favour of ethnic ghettos: «The big municipal parties choose their candidates centrally, which makes it easy to leave little room for anglophones, allophones, and visible minorities of all language groups. »
Number of visible minority columnists at the Gazette: 0
The unintended consequence of the year: The hysterical campaign against the separatist Louise Harel’s bid to become mayor of Montréal helps socialist separatist muslim Richard Bergeron rise from fringe candidate to within 12 point of being elected mayor. The Montreal Gazette’s bosses at CanWest were not happy about that.
Worst new Canadian trend of the year: Segregation.
Most unconvincing attempt to hide the fact you’re just another rich English-speaking white guy of the year: The CDPQ’s new boss, Anglo Micheal Sabia, tries to get an easy confirmation hearing by posing as a poor defenseless immigrant: «As an allophone, I consider that I have deep roots here, in Québec.»
Fake punt of the year: Bob Gainey fires Hab’s coach Guy Carbonneau just as former Caisse de Placement et de Dépôt boss Henri-Paul Rousseau begins explaining how he lost all of Québec’s retirement money.
Anglocentric quote of the year: Eric Amber. « You obviously can’t read English because you are an uneducated bigot. Go fuck yourself. »
Lie of the Year: Tie. « Louise Harel doesn’t speak English » and « French is not threatened in Montréal »
Most solid argument in a Montreal Gazette editorial on the health of French in Montreal: “Ninety per cent of Quebec francophones think French is threatened. It isn’t.”
Dumbest separatist demo of the year: Demo against Anglos performing at L’Aut Saint-Jean
Worst proposed language policy of the year: The Parti québécois’s French-only kindergartens.
Best measure to protect French in Québec: Jean Charest signs a series of deals that lets workers from France and Québec work in each other’s countries.
Worst English by a Québec politician: Louise Harel and Pauline Marois
Best French by a politician from outside Québec or New Brunswick: Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty
Liberal of the year: Tony Acursso
Conservative of the year: Micheal Ignatieff
Independantist of the year: Amir Khadir
Federalist of the year: Nicolas Sarkozy
English Canadian of the year: Richard Colvin
Most unexpected friend of Québec: Gazprom’s Alexander Medvedev hints that he wants to buy an NHL franchise and move it to Québec City.
Pipe dream of the year: An NHL franchise in Québec City.
Imperialist scion of the year: Beer baron and Habs owner Goeff Molson’s made a good impression on the TV show Tout le Monde en Parle, but no one seemed to realise just how much of a truly astonishing TV moment it was. The Molsons have not come out to chat with the rabble many times since their ancestor John purchased the Province of Québec some 200 years ago. That Geoff Molson spoke fluent French, and even reminisced about going to French school is like Cecil J. Rhodes’ great-grandson speaking Xhosa on South African TV and talking about his education in a desegregated Bantu school. Sure the whole thing was carefully scripted by Le Cabinet de Relations Publiques National. It was an important moment of reconciliation nonetheless.
Political prospect of the year: He’s the mayor of a logging town, he’s a former union boss, he represents Québec at OECD meetings about rural development. Few other Québec politicians could have as broad appeal both in the « regions » and in cosmopolitan Montreal like Haiti-born immigrant Michel Adrien. God even gave him a tornado to raise his national profile in 2009!
Most ungrateful polish immigrant: Bernard Adamus in Voir: « Canada is… Bryan Adams and 10 years in jail for Paul Rose. »
Underreported story of the year: Ethnic profiling in Montréal-Nord
Letter to the editor of the year: Julius Grey in le Devoir on Bill 104
Independence referendum of the year: 90% of Catalans vote to separate from Spain in a non-biding referendum.
Most unconvincing promotion of Québec’s independence by a soverigntist party: The Parti Québécois
Best unsolicited interference by a foreign leader in Québec politics: Dead african dictator Omar Bongo casts winning vote for (former) new Action Démocratique du Québec leader Gilles Taillon..
SpaceClown of the Year: Tie. Cirque du Soleil founder and Westmount MP Marc Garneau
Fabulous fashion statement of the year: Cops in pink camouflage.
« Québec is a bore », writes Conrad Black in this Saturday’s National Post. Well I guess that it makes sense, then, that it would be on the mind of the probably very bored former press baron wasting the last days of his useful life in a Florida jail cell.
The « first rich man to go to jail in 300 years », as Black was called on the British sitcom The IT Crowd, now watches the game from the penalty box, well aware that if the clock doesn’t run out before he gets to go back on the ice, he certainly will be to old to be of any use. So, as all old men contemplating the end, the mind of the british lord now drifts back to the Golden age of his youth, in his case, Duplessis’s pre-Quiet Revolution Québec.
To National Post readers unfamiliar with contemporary Québec thought—a pleonasm if there ever was one—Conrad Black’s reading of Québec history, the idea that the old conservative nationalist premier Maurice Duplessis was « the saviour of Québec’s jurisdiction and the physical modernizer of the province » and that the Quiet Revolution was a dud, might seem bold and original.
In fact, Black is only repeating 20 year old ideas first articulated by Mario Dumont and the deep blue conservative movement he revived in the early 1990’s.
The soft-nationalist conservatives, the lucids, Québec’s deep blue core, is the holy grail of Québec politics. This supposed « silent majority » of nationalist, federalist, conservatives are the reason the Parti Québécois’ Pauline Marois is alienating her progressive base with identity politics and by offering Éric Caire, a neoliberal ideologue, a seat in her party. They are the reason Jean Charest hides his Anglo MNA’s on the back benches and carefully doses empty burst of indignation at Ottawa.
They are the ones Brian Mulroney rallied in his crushing 1984 victory against the Liberal Party of Canada. They are the ones Lucien Bouchard took away with him to the Bloc Québécois in 1990. They are the ones the Bloc started losing when Gilles Duceppe took over from Bouchard and the Bloc became, according to a leaked internal report, “too centered around Montreal and ethnics”. They are the ones Mario Dumont briefly united for his surprise 2007 breakthrough and the ones who are behind the « Québec City Mystery » of the Conservative Party of Canada’s only Québec stronghold.
Québec’s deep blue conservatives are also very much Conrad Blacks true family. It’s certainly not a coincidence that Lucien Bouchard, Brian Mulroney and that Anglo-Catholic kid from Montreal, Conrad Black himself, are all alumni of Québec City’s Université Laval law school.
Québec’s Old blues are the classic prototype of the conservative movements enamoured with mythical origin stories, paternalistic theocracies and outdated ethnic definitions of nationhood that Black has consistently championed in his publications in Québec, Canada, the USA and Israel.
For example, Conrad Black shares former sovereigntist premier Lucien Bouchard’s preoccupation for “the white races that has the fewest children. »
« The birthrate has collapsed. » writes Black. « This should not be celebrated, but in the perversity of Quebec’s desorientation, it is. » (Because Québec, of course, is the only place in the world where increased education and economic prosperity should not lead to lower birth rates.) Haitians and North Africans « are being imported to replace the unborn ». (Which, apparently, is completely different from the situation in English-speaking nations like Britain and Canada where East and South Asians emigrate in search of economic opportunity and political freedom.)
So why does Black hate separatists so much if many of them share his conservative, free market, traditionalist views? Because Québec nationalists should have been on his team, like they were in Diefenbaker’s time and Duplessis’s time. It should have been possible to buy their votes with a flag like Duplessis did in 1958 or with a bogus parliamentary motion on the Québec « nation » like Harper tried to do in 2006.
The issue of Québec’s independence has been the tragedy of an entire generation of Canadian conservatives. Québec conservatives can be as virulently anti-separatist as any West Islander after a bad burrito, yet, on the other hand, some, like Mario Dumont and Lucien Bouchard in 1995, have at times embraced the cause, if only temporarily
This fraternal split over a constitutional dispute is what has prevented Québec and Canadian conservatives from building the great coalition of oil interests and people who think Jesus spoke English that, in other countries, have lead to the great prosperous era of George W. Bush, Dubai and deregulated investment banking.
It is this split that prevented Stephen Harper from having a majority in parliament and Jean Charest from proceeding with his « reingeneering » of the state. Now Canada is stuck with one of the only properly regulated and stable bank systems in the Western world and Québec suffers the indignity of being one of the jurisdictions the least affected by the recession.
The sovereignty movement was a farce, accuses a bitter Black in the pages of the National Post, a bankrupt ideological and partisan newspaper that has never made a profit. The leaders of the independence movement were traitors, thieves and even murderers, writes from prison the man caught stealing millions of dollars from his investors.
Maybe Québec is a bore, Conrad, but watching you and your conservative world collapse sure is a lot of fun.
Many people this week were upset at the news that the Québec government was giving lifetime access to government services in English to new immigrants.
According to a report in Le Devoir, as many as 27% of the 48 000 immigrants Québec welcomed in 2009 were designated as Anglos in the State databases, even though only 3,5% of them claimed English as their mother tongue. According to Québec laws, government services in English are a privilege of Québec’s historic Anglo community, not a right of all citizens, even though any one can decide they are Anglo any time they want.
According to the numbers published by the daily, many as 30% of these new members of Québec’s historic anglo community don’t even know how to speak English!
In other words, the Québec government was now in the business of teaching English as our common and business language to immigrants.
And why not?
The future of Québec’s English-speaking community is, as everyone knows, in peril.
Québec’s Anglos, live in near isolation, a whole 45 minute drive from the biggest and most powerful English-speaking nation on earth where the fragile English language media is drowning in a sea of French media imperialism that leaves them without HBO.
Québec’s 607 165 English-speaking souls, 8,2% of the population, struggle to keep a community and a network of institutions alive with only 25% of Québec’s entire Health-care budget and a mere 50% of the money ear-marked to build two new University hospitals in Montréal.
In Montréal, where as many as 20% of the population is English-speaking, they have to make do with only 45% of the povince’s higher education budget and 57% of all university professors in the city.
There comes a time, as Angela Mancini, president of the English Montreal School Board said, when Anglos have to start thinking of themselves…
It’s only a small gesture, but maybe, just maybe, by giving up 30% of it’s immigrants to the English-speaking community, Québec can help save English in North America…
I completely missed the entire Reasonable Accommodations episode that hit Québec a couple of years ago. I never watched a single minute of the infamous Bouchard-Taylor hearings on TV. I never got to experience the re-emergence of Québec’s deep roots of “xenophobia, racism and sexism”.
In 2007 I was hauling freight in my Volvo 670. I spent my days sitting on top of a 430 horsepower Cummins engine, going around on the Interstate, from Dorval to Memphis, down to Mississippi, back up to Winnipeg, back across to Chicago where I would pick up Corona beer or roof shingles and deliver it to Brampton or Mississauga. There I’d strap on another trailer load of unindifiable industrial materials and head back south to NJ, VI VT, MD or OH.
I rolled old school. My cell phone service didn’t cover the States. I didn’t have satellite radio. My old laptop didn’t have WiFi. I got my information from the FM band an neither NPR or the preachers had much to say on Québec’s identity crisis. Neither Diane Rhem or Rush Limbaugh ever brought it up.
I listened to those communists at NPR trying to destroy capitalism by speading lies about a supposed impeding collapse of the housing market in America… and shows by guys like Mike Savage. I remember being stuck in a traffic jam, somewhere on a highway, when news came on the radio that a bridge between Minneapolis and St-Paul had collapsed. Savage was on the air informing us that there was no doubt that the Arab terrorists had blown it up. The politically correct liberal media was afraid to tell us the truth, he said, but not him. American bridges don’t just fall in the water, he analysed, so it had to be the Arabs.
Many, if not most divers today have iPhones and satellite radio, but the good old Citizen’s Band is still a huge part of the culture. It’s used to warn other driver’s that « he’s in the middle » or to tell a brother that he has a burnt trailer light. It’s was also used in Georgia and Indiana truck stops to urge fellow drivers to organize against illegal Mexicans and Bush’s amnesty law that was going to destroy American culture forever.
The impossibility of telling exactly where a voice on the CB is coming from makes it a fantastic window into people’s true thoughts and beliefs.
I remember this one night in a Memphis truck stop. It was a nice warm night. The moon was in the sky and the parking lot smelled of urine, rubber and diesel. The boys were heading to the showers, working out plausible entries for their logbooks on their calculators and setting up the sattelite dishes on their truck so they could watch a game.
Two drivers, a black one and a white one, started trash talking on the CB. Comfortably anonymous in the cab of their rigs, two among a hundred parked in the Flying J that night, they engaged in the most stunning racist poetry I ever heard. Hate and ignorance weaved in clever rhyme. No one intervened, no one said a word. We just sat and listened, not to truth, no, but to sincerity.
The next day I was driving north to Virginia behind another Québec driver. We had to change the channel on our CB three times because of angry and menacing messages from drivers didn’t want to hear any French on the air. In the USA there is an uneasy tolerance for trucks with Canadian plates who come down to « steal their miles », but Québec drivers learn quickly to be very discreet when not speaking English on the phone or to each other.
It wasn’t long after that, after a 10 hour drive somewhere in New York State where they apparently do not broadcast Radio-Moscow, that I finally decided to get a satellite radio. Waiting for my load in some small rural Ontario town , I asked a colleague with a Molson Canadian t-shirt and a satellite antenna sticking out from his cab witch of the two rival satellite providers, XM or Sirius, he recommended.
« All I can tell you », he said, « Is that whatever service you get, get it through an american membership, not the Canadian. That way you won’t have to pay for that French shit. »
I drove back home on the 401 highway in Ontario, where in just about every other rest area toilet someone had written « free turbans! » above the toilet paper dispenser, listened distractedly to the ongoing commentary on channel 19 about how everybody’s load was late, how their company doesn’t pay, how the Chinese don’t know how to drive and the « Pakis » share driver’s licences because, apparently, they’re all called Singh.
That night I hooked up with friends for a couple of beers. They told me all about Bouchard-Taylor and the audiences held around province and about all these people who came out of the woodwork with all these ignorant and bigoted views of muslims and immigrants.
« You wouldn’t believe how many racist people are still out there! »
You know what? I had no problem believing it at all…